The original language of this article is German

When was the Lilah Foundation established and why?

The foundation was established two years ago and goes back to a family foundation set up by my father. As is often the case with small foundations that are not run by professionals, problems arise among the successors after the death of the founder, who may have different orientations and priorities. We siblings have therefore decided to part company, fortunately on good terms and in harmony, but I think this is a consideration that should be taken into account when setting up a foundation: either entrust it to a professional team - but this is only possible in the case of very wealthy foundations - or anticipate what will happen when the founder dies.

What are the statutory objectives of the Foundation?

We siblings have fulfilled the goals set by our Father. That is, to support Jewish culture and the Jewish people. My father had lived through the persecution during the Second World War and was a convinced Zionist. For him, Israel was the only security for Jews and he dedicated half of his fortune to building hospitals, universities, schools, centers for disadvantaged or handicapped children in Israel, but also centers of Jewish culture in the world. He thought that Jewish thought was not sufficiently known, but needed mediation by the Catholic and Christian culture. Moreover, he thought that the treasures of our knowledge and our vision of the world deserved to be made available to all. From him I learned the pride of being Jewish, the respect for tzedaká, and to recognize charity as a constitutive forma mentis and the priority of culture.

You are president of BrainCircle Italy and BrainCircle Lugano: What do these two institutions do?

Our goal is to spread knowledge about brain research. A fundamental knowledge, because we are our brain. BrainCircles was born from an idea of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which just a few days ago was rated by the prestigious Shanghai Ranking as the best university in Israel and one of the hundred best universities in the world. I founded BrainCircle Italy with the support of Rita Levi Montalcini, a Jewish Nobel Laureate and her right hand Pietro Calissano, a great scientist and a great supporter of our work. We deal with brain research in three main areas: (1) the acquisition of cognitive abilities, i.e. how and why the brain thinks, knows, judges, acts; (2) neurodegenerative diseases, i.e. why and how the brain gets sick, in the hope of finding effective cures; and (3) brain-machine interfaces, i.e. the relationship between the brain, computers, artificial intelligence, robotics - an area that fascinates me very much and is truly amazing.

They are organizing a major international conference "Emotions" in eight stages (Jerusalem, Genoa, Rome, Lugano, Milan, Geneva, London, Lisbon) on the subject of emotions, where only women scientists will speak. An innovative formula. How did it come about?

On the one hand, this is a consequence of the Covid pamdemia: If Mohammed doesn't go to the mountain, the mountain goes to Mohammed. When the project started last year, it was unthinkable to bring together scientists from all over the world in one place. So we came up with the idea of holding a conference in several stages, which we then put on the Internet as a single event. The idea of putting women at the center stems from the observation that most conferences invite almost only men as speakers. I myself have been guilty of this pattern of behavior in the past. Why? I think it's a form of mental laziness: men are better known, more present on Google and Youtube, and too little effort is made to research women.... Cherchez la femme. As for the topic of emotions, I find it fascinating for many reasons. Until a few decades ago, they were considered a kind of female handicap. True thinking was pure, rational, philosophical, masculine, untouched by emotions. Neuroscience has shown that this is not true: There is no thinking without emotions; even economic decisions are not unaffected by them. And it has been recognized that emotional intelligence is a fundamental component of intelligence par excellence. In this sense, "Emotions" ( a provocation: let's honor women scientists, let's honor emotions, let's honor women who talk about emotions! The idea was received with great enthusiasm: I contacted some of the most important European research centers and invited them to collaborate, and they all agreed. And the United Nations, in its various departments, is following us with interest and has suggested exporting this format to developing countries, where women need to be recognized and encouraged to pursue scientific careers.

But who is "Emotions" actually aimed at? Only to women?

Absolutely not. On the contrary, we encourage men to participate. At every conference, we have leading scientists as presenters and co-organizers. And we focus on a male audience, because emotions affect men too and men should know them better and feel freer to express them. We address the widest possible audience of professionals, students, but also people who want to know more about the mechanisms that make us make decisions, act, love or hate, and make moral judgments.

How did you finance such an ambitious project?

That's a good question... We have not yet managed to cover all the costs, despite the generosity and enthusiasm of many sponsors and patrons. As you can imagine, this is a very expensive project. We are now trying to involve female patrons and build a support network. Some of them have approached us spontaneously or through friends. And not only women. Our main funder, Sami Sagol, is a brilliant Israeli entrepreneur who is passionate about brain research and has established a network of research centers around the world, the "Sagol Network." We hope others will join our project by spreading the word.

Two events will take place in Switzerland. What will they be talking about?

Each city has a different theme. In Lugano, by the way, we will talk about emotions and gender, if you can talk about female and male emotions. By the way, we have invited a black speaker, a brilliant scientist who works on paternal and inner love and is a transgender CEO. We don't want to repeat the formula of men's conferences where only white, Anglo-Saxon men of a certain age speak.... We want to be inclusive and include women of all ages, colors and ethnicities. In Geneva, together with CISA, the prestigious Centre Interdisciplinaire des Sciences affectives of the University of Geneva, we will talk about emotions, social behavior and decision-making. An extremely interesting topic.

And finally: Does patronage make people happy? What does neuroscience tell us about this?

Yes, this is a topic that has been studied a lot. Generosity is good for you, stimulates the production of serotonin, the happiness hormone, and creates balance with yourself and the world. Spending money to help others does much more than accumulating useless items: It would be important to make this clear to everyone. In this respect, women are perhaps better equipped, since as mothers they are accustomed to giving of themselves and being involved in helping others.

The interview was conducted by Dr. Dr. Elisa Bortoluzzi Dubach. She is a foundation and sponsorship consultant, author and lecturer (

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